PositiveBooklist OnlineAny writer with strong legs can walk the 235 miles from Manhattan to Concord, Massachusetts; only Kevin Dann can do so in imaginative communion with Henry David Thoreau ... reaching Thoreau’s Concord cabin, so concluding his literary pilgrimage, Dann glimpses afresh the mythic vision that opened to America’s most resolute individualist upon contemplating there a pinxter flower...draws from his contemplation urgent imperatives for life-shaping action, distilling each of his sojourn-segment chapters into such an imperative. Exhorting readers to join him in emulating Thoreau, Dann promises them a richer and fuller life if they will internalize a dozen principles that transformed even the picking of huckleberries into an adventure of discovery for the Concord sage. A bracing revival of Concord transcendentalism.
David I. Kertzer
RaveBooklistKertzer unfolds the tense drama when the newly reactionary pope faces such popular hostility that he furtively flees Rome after hearing the cheers of crowds lauding the assassin who has murdered his chief administrator. The drama intensifies when the pope later reenters Rome backed by French and Austrian forces, crushing the hopes of both Italian nationalists and French republicans as he restores the church’s theocratic prerogatives. Diverse personalities, regimes, and philosophies come into focus as formative influences on the unpredictable evolution of church, city, nation, and continent. Essential reading for students of modern European history.
Martha C. Nussbaum
PositiveBooklist\"Readers will notice that the path Nussbaum charts from destructive to generous emotions unfolds along the political principles of the secular left. To be sure, Nussbaum calls for open public dialogue that includes a diverse range of voices. But then she dismisses religionists’ theological convictions as a distraction from political activism and waves away conservatives’ worries about family life. But even readers skeptical about Nussbaum’s political orientation will welcome this call for an emotionally healthier public life.\
PositiveBooklist...alongside this trajectory of stunning progress, readers trace a history of misconceptions about heredity ... Zimmer challenges the widespread misconception that DNA alone determines human identity, adducing compelling evidence that the way genes express themselves depends on environment, nutrition, and even culture. A wide-ranging and eye-opening inquiry into the way heredity shapes our species.
Stuart E. Eizenstat
RaveBooklist Online\"As one who experienced the Carter presidency up close, Eizenstat draws from his own copious in-the-moment notes, as well as hundreds of interviews, to deliver an exceptionally detailed chronicle of four eventful White House years ... Eizenstat’s taut behind-the-scenes narrative gives readers unexpected reasons to appreciate Carter’s stunning accomplishment in negotiating peace between Egypt and Israel. A compelling reassessment of an oft-maligned chief executive.\
RaveBooklistSome people like an olive with their martini; Holt prefers a bit of quantum entanglement. Indeed, in this scintillating collection of essays, Holt makes quantum entanglement—and other large ideas, including fractals, infinite sets, and string theory—the perfect enhancement for cocktail chatter. Always lucid, frequently amusing, occasionally poignant, these essays invite curious readers to explore vistas originally opened by exceptionally daring and powerful minds.
PositiveBooklistWith lucid economy, Greenblatt illuminates the twisted but surprisingly vulnerable psyches of Shakespeare’s power-hungry tyrants and traces the horrid chain of offenses they commit against innocent individuals and against the body politic ... Greenblatt hints, in his analysis of Shakespeare’s plays, at a critical perspective of urgent relevance in the world of twenty-first-century politics. Compelling literary history and analysis.
Michael S. Gazzaniga
PositiveBooklistNothing if not daring, Gazzaniga attempts a task that has long frustrated philosophers and scientists: namely, that of explaining human consciousness ... It will surprise readers how this seamless stream originates as disparate bubbles of consciousness instinctively welling up in the various regions of the brain. A rare opportunity to probe the frontiers of neurological inquiry.
RaveBooklist OnlineA timely meditation on the precarious state of America’s national pastime.
William I Hitchcock
PositiveBooklistYet in emphasizing Eisenhower’s political virtues, Hitchcock still confronts Ike’s troublesome failings, including those that sometimes made the CIA a foe of democracy abroad. Still, even in his defects, the Eisenhower who emerges here stands head and shoulders above his anxious and nakedly ambitious vice president, Richard Nixon. A complete and persuasive assessment.
RaveBooklistIn this riveting narrative, Massing recounts how the incendiary friar eventually quarrels with and finally repudiates his erstwhile leader, so sundering the church that Erasmus hopes to reform from within, and opening up a epoch-defining gap between Protestant evangelism and cosmopolitan humanism ... America’s conservative Protestants...will learn much from this account of the lasting transatlantic impact of the clash between Erasmus and Luther.
RaveBooklistThe story...delivers all the page-turning suspense of a mystery novel laced with insights into modern mathematics and quantum physics, and into the dynamics of family relationships. A brilliant first novel radiant with promise of even better to come.
RaveBooklistDeftly melding biographical narration, historical analysis, and literary explication, Jasanoff lets readers glimpse in Conrad’s fiction the fate of vulnerable individuals who ventured too far in a world rapidly losing its boundaries. And as one who—despite the cost and the danger—has retraced many of Conrad’s journeys, Jasanoff compellingly asserts the novelist’s continuing relevance as an interpreter of our (post)modern geopolitical and cultural perplexities. Certain to attract both history buffs and those drawn to literary biography.
RaveBooklistTaking readers deep into a marriage that previous biographers have dismissed as merely functional, Sebestyen illuminates moments of real tenderness—and of painful tension—as Lenin succumbs to the charms of a beautiful émigré, whom he makes his mistress without abandoning his wife. Lenin’s handling of rivals comes into focus in a different context when Sebestyen analyzes the ways the dictator advances his agenda by playing the scintillating Trotsky against the ruthless Stalin. Readers see a great historical tragedy play out, however, as Russia’s dying Red Tsar leaves his most bloody-minded lieutenant in prime position to take over the brutal police state he has forged. A compelling portrait of an epoch-making figure.
PositiveBooklistReaders see how the shadows of the fallen Adam and Eve persisted in Judeo-Christian theology—as well as Western philosophy, art, politics, and sexual ethics. But Greenblatt persuasively argues that Adam and Eve would look different if Origen had persuaded the early church to accept his allegorical understanding of the pair. Instead, Augustine impressed on the Christian mind a sternly literal understanding of Adam and Eve, leaving later believers unprepared for Darwin’s scientific explanation of human beginnings. Though not a believer himself, Greenblatt worries that the imaginative and narrative aridity of Darwin’s explanation of the first hominids has made it a problematic substitute for the scriptural account of Adam and Eve. An impressively wide-ranging inquiry.
RaveBooklistTaubman offers hard-won glimpses into the heart of a dreamer sharing a body with the mind of a cagey political operative. With insights comparable to those that won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Khrushchev, Taubman here limns the difficulties Gorbachev confronted as he pursued perestroika and glasnost against resistance from hard-liners ready to drive him from office (perhaps into prison), even as liberal activists censured him for stalling. Though Gorbachev reshaped the world, Taubman does not ignore the Soviet leader’s ultimate failure as the liberalization process slipped out of his control and finally broke down in ways since exploited by the reactionary Vladimir Putin. Despite Putin’s retrenchment, Taubman still recognizes in Gorbachev one of the modern era’s greatest benefactors. A masterful portrait, convincing and complete.
RaveBooklistWriting in 1922 to Sigmund Freud, the disgruntled husband of a woman undergoing psychoanalysis challenged the famous psychologist: 'Great Doctor, are you a savant or a charlatan?' In this devastating exposé, Crews answers that question with stunning clarity ... Crews relentlessly shreds the deceptions that Freudians even now try to maintain. Trumpeted as a daring breakthrough, Freudianism incorporated concepts the Viennese physician borrowed from mentors he idolized, then betrayed. Framed as the distillation of lessons learned through successful treatments of many patients, Freud’s psychoanalytic method, Crews argues forcefully, emerged with a thin—and mendaciously edited—case history. Disguised as objective truth, Freudianism bore the marks of its creator’s deep-seated insecurities—and guilt. This thorough dismantling of one of modernity’s founding figures is sure to be met with controversy.
RaveBooklistBit by agonizing bit, Buckmaster pries from his painful bodily experiences and his even more painful flights of imagination answers to his profoundest questions about what it means to be a man, a father, a lover, a mortal in a godforsaken, god-haunted polyverse. Readers who, like the protagonist, yearn for answers to such questions will find such by joining him in a psychological maelstrom. Daunting but rewarding, this dazzling work will burnish Kingsnorth’s already luminous reputation.
PositiveBooklistGuided by Benner, readers penetrate the benign deception in the Florentine author’s authorial ventriloquism and so learn to recognize the subtle but profoundly humane implications of his most famous work, ignored by centuries of readers deaf to the irony undercutting its amoral recommendations. A persuasive challenge to the received opinion of a Renaissance titan.
RaveBooklistLevingston here recounts the story of how those cruelly disappointed hopes surged anew just five months later when President Kennedy delivered a stirring speech urging Congress to pass civil rights legislation conferring full citizenship on the nation’s largest minority group ... A riveting episode in American history.